The Edmond Sun

March 6, 2014

Official: Tax code needs update

James Coburn
The Edmond Sun

OKLA. CITY — EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was corrected March 7, 2014, to correctly reflect the type of pension plan change as advocated for by state officials. The Edmond Sun regrets the error and any inconvenience to our readers.

Tax reduction proposals that will likely be signed by Gov. Mary Fallin are contingent on revenue growth, State Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday at the state Capitol.

“Our history has shown that we can manage that,” Miller said.

Oklahoma’s monthly gross receipts continued to rise in February, Miller said. They have grown by nearly 25 percent in the past four years, he said. Gross receipts from the past 12 months are $2.2 billion more than what they were for the same period in 2009, he said.

“Collections, as they did this month, have topped the same month of the prior year in 41 of the past 48 months,” said Miller, R-Edmond.

Fallin has called for an income tax reduction that will return $100 million to the state’s economy, she said. A one-quarter of a cent cut in state income taxes has been proposed by the governor. Meanwhile, the state faces a $188 million budget hole.

Miller said the state will manage by cutting the budget to make it work if legislators decide to support an income tax sooner than later. A tax cut will bring a short-term reduction in revenues, regardless of the long-term impact, Miller said.

“It takes a while for those things to ripple through,” he explained.

Miller said he is in favor of eliminating the entire tax code and implementing a new one. Today’s tax code does not reflect the realities of today’s economy, he said.

“If we’re talking about Internet taxes or we’re talking about consumption taxes, we could build a much better system if we got serious about doing that,” Miller said. “That discussion would involve something other than cutting the income tax, which doesn’t seem to be too palatable.”

Miller advocates moving the state away from a defined contribution plan in order to fund core functions of government adequately.

New hires within the Oklahoma Employees Retirement System should be moved to a more affordable and flexible 401(k)-style benefits plan as used in the private sector, Fallin said at her recent State of the State address.

More money is needed for teachers’ salaries and corrections officers, Miller said. The pay scale for public employees needs an adjustment, he said.

“We’re not going to be able to do that if we don’t change something we are currently doing,” Miller said.

Improving accessibility to higher education and investing in roads and bridges could occur if the state stops paying too much on the back end of retirement, he said.

However, many educators and other state employees have vocally opposed the potential pension plan changes under consideration this legislative session. Miller has emphasized that this session’s proposals do not make any changes to current employees’ benefit plans. The proposals affect only new hires in the future, he said previously.